10. HAWAI`I: Public Access, Open Space, and Natural Resources Preservation Maintenance Fund
QUESTION: Shall the Charter of the County of Hawai`i be amended to provide the Department of Finance full management responsibilities for the Public Access, Open Space, and Natural Resources Preservation Maintenance fund and to expand the purposes for which the fund may be expended?To see the proposed language changes and Fiscal Impact Statements prepared by the County of Hawai`i Department of Finance, go to https://www.hawaiicounty.gov/Home/Components/News/News/2444/.CHARTER COMMISSION SUMMARY: This proposal would change the responsibility for administering the maintenance fund from the Department of Parks and Recreation to the Department of Finance. In addition, expenditures directly related to the purpose of public safety maintenance and preservation of lands and easements acquired by the public access, open space, and natural resources preservation fund would include building and installing toilet facilities, maintenance equipment storage sheds, weather protection structures, and creating trails and paths for land access. This proposal further refines the procedures by which stewardship grants are applied for and processed, to include requiring a detailed business plan and returning unexpended funds to the maintenance fund within 30 days of the final report. The commission finds that placing the maintenance fund in the department of finance and expanding the purposes for which the maintenance fund may be expended is in the best interest of the public access, open space, and natural resources preservation program.FISCAL IMPACT: The transfer of responsibilities from the Department of Parks and Recreation to the Finance Department should not have a significant impact on expenditures. As interest in the stewardship grants continues to grow and the projects become more complex, there could be a need for additional staff time and resources in the future. The amendment adds more allowable uses, which could impact the amount available for stewardship grants in the future.WHAT YOUR VOTE MEANS:A "YES" vote means that you are IN FAVOR of the amendment and the Charter of the County of Hawai`i will be changed as proposed.A "NO" vote means that you are AGAINST the amendment and the Charter of the County of Hawai`i will not be changed as proposed.ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR:-Increases efficiency and improves accountability by centralizing the operations and administration of the Public Access, Open Space, and Natural Resources Preservation Maintenance Fund (PONC Maintenance Fund) within the Hawai`i County Department of Finance, and tightens requirements and oversight of the nonprofit stewardship grants program.-The proposed changes in the permitted uses of the PONC Maintenance Fund are based on recommendations form the nonprofit stewardship organizations, and would increase the public use and enjoyment of the preserved lands and easements.-Nonprofit stewardship organizations participating in the PONC stewardship grants program would be allowed to compensate an officer, board member, or employee for work identified in their approved business plans, which would provide more consistent, reliable, and sustainable support for the stewardship programs. The proposed change would also benefit rural and economically depressed communities on the Big Island, and ensure that those who have local knowledge and expertise remain engaged in the stewardship of the preserved lands.ARGUMENTS AGAINST:-Permitting the nonprofit stewardship organizations to compensate volunteers would increase PONC expenditures and could potentially deplete the PONC Maintenance Fund, which is needed to buy materials, equipment, and supplies to preserve and maintain the safety of the acquired lands and easements.-The expanded permitted uses of the PONC Maintenance Fund should include more protections to ensure that inappropriate structures are not built on sites with very sensitive cultural and natural resources.-A fundamental structure and organization of the PONC and Maintenance Funds should be established in the Charter of the County of Hawai`i. Details that go beyond this framework should be included in the Hawai`i County Code, which provides a more timely and responsive way to make amendments through the ordinance process with the approval of the Mayor and County Council.
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